Red Cross issues call to action

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 8, 2014 

Red Cross Volunteers

Disaster Action Team volunteers Kimba Overby, Shannon Lewis and Kelly Morey, from left, show some of the supplies they store for when they respond to house fires and other local disasters. The local Red Cross chapter is looking for more people to volunteer for the group.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

When a large wildfire burned in the Horse Heaven Hills about 6 1/2 years ago, Kimba Overby wanted to lend a hand.

She called the Benton-Franklin Chapter of the American Red Cross, thinking "they might need somebody to help make sandwiches or something," she told the Herald.

She was told to put in a volunteer application, and did so -- the first step in what's become a fulfilling association with the nonprofit.

"I've yet to make a sandwich," Overby said. "But I've been busy with them ever since."

The local Red Cross needs more people like Overby to become disaster action team volunteers. There are about seven members on the team, and officials would like to see several times that many.

Overby is the client service lead and coordinates the team. They step in with immediate aid when a fire or other disaster hits local residents, helping arrange shelter and providing clothes, toiletries and other assistance.

It's meaningful work.

"It gives me a terrific feeling knowing that we're doing something tangible to help (those in need) when they're the most vulnerable," Overby said.

The disaster action team logged 43 responses and helped 163 people between July 2012 and June 2013. Most responses are to house fires, but others include events such as flooding or storms.

Since July of last year, the team has logged 38 responses, including the Benton-Franklin Red Cross' largest-ever disaster relief effort.

The Sacajawea Apartments in downtown Pasco caught fire on July 20, displacing residents of the six-story building. A Red Cross shelter was established at Pasco High and stayed open for about three weeks. Numerous local Red Cross volunteers -- including disaster action team members -- helped out, along with Red Cross volunteers from around the state and beyond.

Disaster action team volunteers must be at least 18 years old. Basic familiarity with computers and attention to detail are pluses, because of paperwork that's involved, said Cody Campbell, Red Cross disaster program manager.

The team offers flexibility, with volunteers picking their days on call. Bilingual Spanish speakers are especially needed.

Overby talked about her disaster action team experience at the Red Cross office in Kennewick on Wednesday, along with two fellow team volunteers -- Shannon Lewis and Kelly Morey.

Lewis and Morey are sisters, and their father and brother spent years in law enforcement. Working with the Red Cross on the disaster action team is their way to give back, the sisters said.

"You can help people, even (through) just listening," Morey told the Herald.

The job requires empathy and compassion, the volunteers said. And although it doesn't pay, it has rewards.

"This is a wonderful way to reach out to your community and do something really valuable," Overby said. "(It's a way) to be of help and service."

To volunteer with the local Red Cross, go to or call the office at 783-6195, exts. 9201 or 9203.

-- Sara Schilling: 582-1529;; Twitter: @saraTCHerald

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